April 20, 2012

Who are the Palestinian-Arabs?

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought”
"Ha'Ummah” quarterly, March 2012, Vol. 185

Most Palestinians are Muslim-Arabs who originated in the Arabian
Peninsula.  However, the source of the name "Palestine” was Pleshet,
the region of the Philistines (Pleshtim in Hebrew), who originated in
Greece's Aegean Islands.  They were expelled from Greece in 1300 BC
and settled the coastal plain of the Land of Israel in 1200 BC.  The
Roman Empire introduced the name "Palestina'” in order to erase the
memory of the Jewish People and the Jewish Homeland, Judea, from

Contrary to political correctness, Palestine was never an Arab entity
with a unique national, geographic, cultural, identity. It was part of
a larger entity, and its Arab inhabitants considered themselves as
part of the Arab, Moslem, Ottoman or the Greater-Syria entities.
George Habib Antonius, the leading historian of Arab nationalism,
considered Palestine to be part of Greater Syria.

On the other hand, John Haynes Holmes, the pacifist, Left-oriented
Unitarian priest, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and
the author of Palestine Today and Tomorrow ­ a Gentile's Survey of
Zionism (McMillan, 1929) wrote: "This is the country to which the Jews
have come to rebuild their ancient homeland…. On all the surface of
this earth there is no home for the Jew save in the mountains and the
well-springs of his ancient kingdom…. Everywhere else the Jew is in
exile…. But, Palestine is his…. Scratch Palestine anywhere and you'll
find Israel…. There is not a spot which is not stamped with the
footprint of some ancient [Jewish] tribesman…. Not a road, a spring, a
mountain, a village, which does not awaken the name of some great
[Jewish] king, or echo with the voice of some great [Jewish] prophet….
[The Jew] has a higher, nobler motive in Palestine than the economic….
This mission is to restore Zion; and Zion is Palestine.”

History documents that the Land of Israel was the cradle of Jewish
identity 2000 years before the appearance of Islam, and that the
tangible connection between the Jewish People and the Jewish Homeland
has been sustained since then.  On the other hand, Palestinian Arabs
have not been in the area west of the Jordan River from time
immemorial; no Palestinian state has ever existed, no Palestinian
People was ever robbed of its land, and there is no basis for the
Palestinian "claim of return.”

Most Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the 1845-1947 Muslim
migrants from the Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, as well as from Iraq,
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Bosnia, the Caucasus,
Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, India, Afghanistan and Balochistan.

Arab migrant workers were imported by the Ottoman Empire and by the
British Mandate (which defeated the Ottomans in 1917) to work on
infrastructure projects: The port of Haifa, the Haifa-Qantara (1918),
Haifa-Edrei (1905), Haifa-Nablus (1914) and Jerusalem-Jaffa (1892)
railroads, military installations, roads, quarries, reclamation of
wetlands, etc.  Legal and illegal Arab laborers were also attracted by
the relative economic boom, stimulated by the annual Jewish
immigration beginning in 1882.

The Arab population of Haifa surged from 6,000 in 1880 to 80,000 in
1919, as a result of workforce migration, modernization introduced by
the British occupation, and the establishment and expansion of Jewish
settlements, which enhanced the infrastructure and employment base.
The eruption of World War II accelerated the demand for manpower and
the flow of migrants to the area west of the Jordan River.

According to a 1937 report by the British Peel Commission (Palestine
Betrayed, Prof. Efraim Karsh, Yale University Press, 2010, p. 12),
"The increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas,
affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the census returns in
1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase percent in Haifa
was 86, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such
as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease
of 2 percent.”

As a result of the substantial 1880-1947Arab immigration ­ and despite
Arab emigration caused by domestic chaos and intra-Arab violence - the
Arab population of Jaffa, Haifa and Ramla grew 17, 12 and 5 times

The (1831-1840) conquest, by Egypt's Mohammed Ali, was solidified by a
flow of Egyptian and Sudanese migrants settling empty spaces between
Gaza and Tul-Karem up to the Hula Valley.  They followed in the
footsteps of thousands of Egyptian draft dodgers, who fled Egypt
before 1831 and settled in Acre. The British traveler, H.B. Tristram,
identified, in his 1865 The Land of Israel: a journal of travels in
Palestine (p. 495), Egyptian migrants in the Beit-Shean Valley, Acre,
Hadera, Netanya and Jaffa.

The British Palestine Exploration Fund documented that Egyptian
neighborhoods proliferated in the Jaffa area: Saknet el-Mussariya, Abu
Kebir, Abu Derwish, Sumeil, Sheikh Muwanis, Salame', Fejja, etc. In
1917, the Arabs of Jaffa represented at least 25 nationalities,
including Persians, Afghanis, Hindus and Balochis.  Hundreds of
Egyptian families settled in Ara' Arara', Kafer Qassem, Taiyiba and
Qalansawa. In 1908, Yemenite Arab migrants settled in Jaffa, and Arabs
from Syria's Huran proliferated in the ports of Haifa and Jaffa.

"30,000-36,000 Syrian migrants (Huranis) entered Palestine during the
last few months alone" reported "La Syrie" daily on August 12, 1934.
Az-ed-Din el-Qassam, the role-model of Hamas terrorism, which
terrorized Jews in British Mandate Palestine, was Syrian, as were Said
el-A'az, a leader of the 1936-38 anti-Jewish pogroms and Kaukji, the
commander-in-chief of the Arab mercenaries terrorizing Jews in the
1930s and 1940s.

Libyan migrants settled in Gedera, south of Tel Aviv. Algerian
refugees (Mugrabis) escaped the French conquest of 1830 and settled in
Safed (alongside Syrians and Jordanian Bedouins), Tiberias and other
parts of the Galilee. Circassian refugees, fleeing Russian oppression
(1878) and Moslems from Bosnia, Turkmenistan, and Yemen (1908)
diversified the Arab demography west of the Jordan River.

Many of the Arabs who fled in 1948, reunited with their families in
Egypt and other neighboring countries.

Mark Twain wrote in Innocents Abroad (American Publishing Company,
1869): "Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, Palestine must
be the prince…. The hills are barren.... The valleys are unsightly
deserts…. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a
vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant
tint…. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land…. I would like much
to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem,
Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee -- but even then these
spots would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste
of a limitless desolation…. Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes.
Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and
fettered its energies….  Nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts
of cane…. Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the
hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one
finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho
the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle
left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in
their poverty and their humiliation…. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the
stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and has
become a pauper village…. The noted Sea of Galilee…a silent
wilderness. Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of
beggared Arabs…. Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it
be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?.... The
advertised title of the expedition--"The Grand Holy Land Pleasure
Excursion"-- was a misnomer. "The Grand Holy Land Funeral Procession"
would have been better--much better.”

Joan Peters echoes Mark Twain's observations in her book, From Time
Immemorial (Harper & Row, 1984), which is top heavy on historical
documentation and footnotes, and was written in consultation with the
three icons of Middle East history and politics, Prof. Bernard Lewis,
Prof. Elie Kedourie and Prof. P.J. Vatikiotis, as well as Prof. Fred
Gottheil, Prof. Walter Laqueur and Martin Gilbert. Peters quotes Dr.
Carl Hermann Voss, then Chairman of the "American Christian Palestine
Committee:”  "The Arab population of Palestine was small and limited
until Jewish resettlement restored the barren lands and drew to it
Arabs from neighboring countries (p. 245).”  In 1939, President
Roosevelt noted that "Arab immigration into Palestine since 1921 has
vastly exceeded the total Jewish immigration during this whole period

"Ibrahim Pasha, Palestine's Egyptian conqueror, had left behind him
permanent colonies of Egyptian immigrants at Beisan, Nablus, Irbid,
Acre and Jaffa.  Some 500 Egyptian soldiers' families established a
new quarter [in Jaffa], and that was only one among countless similar
situations. With this aid and the resettlement of Jews, which dates
from 1830, Jaffa began to grow.  In another area, the Muslims of Safed
are mostly descended from Moorish settlers and from Kurds…. Much of
the Muslim population that remained in the country was transient, as
observed in 1918 by the Arab leader, Sharif Hussein (pp. 169-70).”
"In 1878, groups of Circassians, Algerians, Egyptians, Druses, Turks,
Kurds, Bosnians and others came into Palestine…. At least 25% of the
141,000 Muslims [in the whole of Palestine in 1882] were newcomers or
descendants of those who arrived after the 1831 Egyptian conquest…. In
1858, James Finn, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, reported
that 'Mohammedans of Jerusalem' were scarcely exceeding one quarter of
the whole population (pp. 196-97)….”

"According to the 1931 census, at least 23 different languages were
reported in use by Muslims, and most of those plus an additional 28
were in use by Christians, many of whom were known as Arabs ­ a total
of 51 languages.  The non-Jews in Palestine listed as their
birthplaces at least 24 different countries (p. 226)….”

Peters documents the British war against Aliyah (Jewish immigration),
while encouraging Arab immigration.  For example, "On January 3, 1926,
the British Controller of Permits indicated that 'it is agreed that
refugees who would appear to be Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian by
nationality may be admitted into Palestine without passport or visa
(p. 270)….'” The 1930 White Paper enabled Arabs ­ but not Jews ­ to
purchase land.  It constrained Jewish immigration until Arab
demography was sufficiently enhanced (pp. 300-301).

Arieh Avneri (The Claim of Dispossession, 1980), a ground-breaking
researcher of Palestinian history, wrote: "Throughout history there
are many instances of conquests which led, through a process of
absorption and assimilation, to the formation of new national
entities.  Had the Arab conquest led to the formation of a
crystallized Arab nation ­ no matter how small in number ­ it would
have been difficult to contradict the claim of Arab historical
continuity in Palestine.  But such was not the case.  The few Arabs
who lived in Palestine a hundred years ago, when Jewish settlement
began, were a tiny remnant of a volatile population, which had been in
constant flux, as a result of unending conflicts between local tribes
and local despots…."  In 1554, there were 205,000 Moslems Christian
and Jews in Palestine. In 1800, the total population was 275,000.  In
1890, there were 532,000 people in Palestine, as a result of
accelerated immigration, impacted by Jewish-built trade, employment,
health and cultural infrastructures. "The population in Palestine
underwent radical changes in the wake of two destructive wars that
swept the country ­ Napoleon's campaign of 1799 and the invasion by
the Egyptian army and the subsequent rule of Ibrahim Pasha between
1831 and 1840…. [It] caused many old inhabitants to flee and new
elements to settle in the land (pp. 11-13)….”

The baseless claim of an Arab presence in the Land of Israel from time
immemorial, and the attempt to dismiss the moral, historical and
geographic Jewish right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel, have
fueled Arab hatred and terrorism, have constituted the chief obstacle
to peace, have perpetuated war and terrorism.

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